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Steve James - Burnley’s contemporary metal artist

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 November 2016

Polishing the finished sculpture

Polishing the finished sculpture


Burnley’s Steve James makes gleaming sculptures from stainless steel and now one graces Oxford University.

Left to right: Artist Steve James, Principle Rev. Dr. Ralph Waller,  Dr Ian Finlay,  Artist Vital Peeters.Left to right: Artist Steve James, Principle Rev. Dr. Ralph Waller, Dr Ian Finlay, Artist Vital Peeters.

They say you should never turn your hobby into a job for fear that all the fun will go out of it.

But sculptor Steve James has done just that and he says: ‘I couldn’t be happier – it just doesn’t seem like work.’

The culmination of his career so far was to recently go down to Harris Manchester College, part of Oxford University, to attend the unveiling of his new permanent steel sculpture. ‘That was a very special day,’ says Steve.

He studied art and design as well as welding and fabrication at Burnley College in the 1990s and worked in the sheet metal and engineering trade in the town for 22 years.

Steve JamesSteve James

However, he had always been passionate about art and his spare time away from work was spent combining his engineering skills with his artistic talent.

‘Ten years ago I began to combine both the subjects I’d studied to follow my true passion, which is making sculpture,’ he says.

The internet has brought his bold, sinuous stainless steel structures to a wider audience and his work is admired at home and abroad.

‘Each piece is designed and built entirely by my own hands from start to finish,’ he says. ‘The unique designs bring together a unity of industrial strength combined with decorative intricacy.

Steve James fabricating a sculpture in the workshopSteve James fabricating a sculpture in the workshop

‘To me, metal is an exciting medium because through cutting, bending and welding, I can achieve an array of many different shapes and forms, in all sizes and finishes. I hope my sculptures are not just visually appealing, but flowing and calming. The smooth, cool, minimalist curves and lines of the steel sculptures that I create are also very tactile.’

Steve was one of the few students at his school who opted to study art and while there was a practical necessity to get a job, his love of the subject never diminished.

‘I’m very much a creative person and love nothing more than when my hands are busy,’ he says. ‘If I’m not fabricating sculptures, I find myself sketching endless drawings of images and symbols generating ideas for new sculpture designs. I gather ideas and inspiration from everything around me, from the environment and nature to everyday objects.’

His Oxford piece was commissioned for the college by Fellow, Dr Ian Finlay. It represents a flame of knowledge and incorporates glasswork by fellow artist Vital Peeters.

Surface polishing to emphasise the surface patternSurface polishing to emphasise the surface pattern

‘It was a fantastic opportunity and a pleasure for me to create this sculpture for the college. It’s great recognition for my art,’ says the father-of-two. ‘I hope this is only the beginning – I would like to create more public art for even more people to see and appreciate in the future.’

To see more of Steve’s work go to

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